Poway is located at (32.969895, -117.038479). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 101.9 km² (39.3 mi²). 101.6 km² (39.2 mi²) of it is land and 0.3 km² (0.1 mi²) of it (0.25%) is water. The city is known in Diegueño as Pawiiy.
Artifacts such as arrow heads, spear points, metates, grinding stones, and pottery found along the bed of Poway Creek all indicate an early Diegueño presence. Various pictographs adorn many of Poway's boulders, and modern techniques suggest that these paintings date back to the 1500s or earlier. Poway's contemporary history began in 1758, when padres from the Mission San Diego de Alcala kept cattle in the valley. The name "Paguay", one of many original spellings, appears on mission documents in 1774. The name, also written as Paguai, Paui, Pauai, Pauy, Powaii, and finally Poway, has incurred dispute as to its meaning. While one Native American linguist insists that it means "here, where the waters meet", the consensus has traditionally translated the word as "the two little valleys".
For approximately a century, Poway served as a stock range for the mission, until settlers began to come to the valley for farming purposes in the late antebellum period. Few records of this time have survived, and not until 1894 and the inception of the Poway Progress did the town's history become a thing of record. In 1887, about 800 people lived and farmed in Poway. Around the turn of the century Poway farmers had moderate success in the production and vending of fruit, grain, and dairy products. Expansion, however, failed to follow agricultural success. Though the farmers prospered, the town existed in a static state for decades, varying only slightly in population, demographics, crop selection, and the like.
Poway has a creek and fertile soil, but the lack of easily available water prevented the settlement from attracting large-scale farmers and the accompanying population growth. Not until 1954 did the town establish the Poway Municipal Water District, which utilizes water from the Colorado River Aqueduct to irrigate all of Poway's 10,000 acres (40 km²). When water came to the town, people did as well. In 1957, following the sewer system's completion, developers built housing tracts, and modern Poway grew from there. In 1980 Poway incorporated and officially became the City of Poway (nicknamed "the City in the Country") rather than a part of San Diego. Poway no longer depends on agriculture for its primary source of income, and has instead transitioned into a residential community for those who work for employers in and around the San Diego area. According to a recent state government, the population of Poway has grown since that last census to 50,542.
The success of these crops depended on the annual winter rainfall, however, and so remained subject to variations in precipitation until the establishment of the Poway Municipal Water District in 1954. With water readily available, the town's farming interest shifted to two principal crops, avocados and citrus fruits. Ironically, despite the relative success of these ventures, Poway ceased to exist as a farming town once the water needed to make it a true agricultural haven appeared. With water came new residents, and the former farm town transformed into a locale full of small commercial businesses and modest shopping centers.
Today, the Poway Unified School District (PUSD) has grown to more than 30 elementary, middle (6th through 8th grades), and high (9th through 12th grades) schools, and even has a home-schooling program. PUSD has a record of high performance, and one of its students, Anurag Kashyap (an eighth grader at the time), became the 2005 National Spelling Bee Champion after winning on the word "appoggiatura".
Superintendent Boyd of the PBRC returned recently from an extended trip throughout the east… he says the prospects of a largely increased tourist traffic during the coming season are especially good. As the years go by, Southern California is becoming more and more advertised, and Mr. Boyd says that everywhere he heard people talking of this region and not forgetting to place San Diego on the itinerary of their proposed travels. The prospects for the extension of the road to Santa Maria, he says are brighter than ever and the road will undoubtedly be built and in running order within a year.
The newspaper's editor, L. E. Kent, met with Boyd and Cravath on many occasions, and obviously caught the flavor of their sales patter. His enthusiasm for the subject of the railroad, based on repeated assurances from the PBRC that the cars could not fail to run, spread like wildfire to the townspeople. On the first of December the town held a "Railroad Social" wherein, according to plan, the PBRC representatives would meet with the entire town and, after a considerable amount of entertainment and hubbub, present the railroad contract to the townspeople for their approval and signatures. The night began without a hitch. According to the December 7th Poway Progress, "a program of good and appropriate things was provided by local talent, which furnished fun and amusement to all. Following the entertainment, a sumptuous supper was served free to the hungry crowd, after which games and youthful antics continued into the late hours" (31). The "entertainment", according to the evening's program, published by the newspaper the following morning, surpassed all expectations. Local residents performed vocal duets, played the violin and the organ, and even sang a "Railroad Song" en masse. Perhaps the most telling entertainment came in the form of a "recitation" by Flora Kent, L.E. Kent's wife, who composed an original poem on the subject and performed it for the crowd. Her proud husband esteemed his wife's literary talents so highly that he published the full text of her poem in the Progress the next day. The following excerpts (two out of a total six stanzas) give an adequate representation of the work's flavor:
The poem gives an excellent indication of Poway's general excitement concerning the new railroad. The comment that Poway's "slumber has been long", especially, suggests that Poway residents recognize the sleepiness and overall torpor of their town, and long for an agent such as the railroad to awaken them from their doze into a new world of economic prosperity. This new reality, however, seemed dubious when, on the very night of the Railroad Social, with all the town's residents in attendance, the PBRC representatives failed to materialize. "There was one disappointment that shadowed the whole affair—" the Progress reports: "the nonappearance of the gentlemen who were expected to be present to give the railroad talk, setting for the plans, purpose, and contracts of the enterprise." The fact that the superintendents never attended the contract signing should have, perhaps, indicated to the Powegians that the PBRC did not act entirely in good faith concerning the venture. The same newspaper article, though, states "In justice to the gentlemen named, we are authorized to state that they fully intended to be present at the social, but other engagements prevented them—explanations promised." At this time in the venture, Poway had collectively given upwards of $100,000 worth of bonds and land to the PBRC. Gullible as the superintendents doubtless expected to find them, Poway residents continued to pursue the railroad project for another year in its entirety, with the paper constantly reporting news such as this, in July of 1896. (39)
Although there is at present a death-like sentence as to our railroad project, we are glad to note indications that the enterprise is not abandoned, nor at a standstill entirely. Mr. Boyd… [said] that they would "get there" without fail. He gave the impression, in short, that the construction of the road can be depended on.
Not until October 1896 did Poway finally abandon hope for the project and demand its money back. Remarkably, the sum of $85,000 worth of land and notes came back into the town's coffers. The financial losses incurred by the townspeople, then, did not prove devastating, but the town's spirit never fully recovered from the blow. L.E. Kent himself took the news so poorly, having had the personal assurances of Cravath and Boyd many times, and having staked his journalistic reputation, such as it was, on these assurances, that he only continued to publish the Poway Progress until 1897, one year after the railroad fiasco concluded. After all, progress did not seem imminent in Poway's future any longer. When news of the coming railroad spread, an English firm, Baird and Chapin, came to the valley and laid out a subdivision plan called Piermont. A plan filed in 1887 shows such elegant names as Devon, Norwalk, Aubrey, Edgemoor, York, Rydal, Windsor and Midland Avenues. Residential areas were planned around small parks: Ashton Court, Chatham Court, Hampton Court, St. Alban's Court and many others. Poway's new railroad would bring the grandeur, elegance, and cultivation that the town currently lacked, and the developers named the areas accordingly. When the railroad did not materialize, though, the valley began to lose some of its settlers, and the developers left as well. Poway existed in a stagnant inertia for close to three quarters of a century before water revitalized the town.
In 1957, the Pomerado County Water District was organized to provide sewer service to 1,610 acres (6.5 km²) along Pomerado Road. In 1959 the first subdivision homes were built and sold as Poway Valley Homes and Poway's population began to climb. On December 1, 1980, the City of Poway incorporated and the two districts, Poway Municipal Water and Pomerado County Water, became part of the City structure.
There were 15,467 households out of which 47.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 68.8% were married couples living together, 10.5% have an unmarried female householder, and 16.8% were non-families. 12.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.08 people and the average family size was 3.35 people.
In the city the population was spread out with 30.7% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 25.5% from 45 to 64, and 8.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 97.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.9 males.
The median income for a household in Poway is $71,708, and the median income for a family was $77,875. Males had a median income of $53,322 versus $52,742 for females. The per capita income for the city was $29,788. About 3.1% of families and 4.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.9% of those under age 18 and 3.7% of those age 65 or over.
According to estimates by the San Diego Association of Governments, the median household income of Poway in 2005 was $96,474 (not adjusted for inflation). When adjusted for inflation (1999 dollars; comparable to Census data above), the median household income was $78,340.
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